Smell-O-Vision was a system that released specific odors during the projection of a film. This enabled viewers to smell what they saw in the film. The technique made its only appearance in the 1960 film Scent of Mystery. In homage to Smell-O-Vision, director John Waters released an enhanced “Odorama” version of his film, Polyester in 1982.
In the original theatrical screenings, the scents were arranged by number on a scratch and sniff card. The audience was instructed to scratch the card when the corresponding numbers flashed on the screen. The smells were a surprise. Viewers might expect to smell flowers based on what they saw, but at the last minute, smelly sneakers were placed in the scene.
The ten smells on the Polyester Odorama card were 1. Roses, 2. Flatulence, 3. Model Airplane Glue, 4. Pizza, 5. Gasoline, 6. Skunk, 7. Natural Gas, 8. New Car Smell, 9. Dirty Shoes, and 10. Air Freshener.
I remember seeing this film and getting an Odorama card. It was funny at the time and is funny now. Like many others I wish I had held onto that card. They make a nice profit on eBay.
While the scratch and sniff approach worked and solved the problems inherent in Smell-O-Vision, it did not take off. The technique, however, has been used in four other films. Disney has used the technique in their 3-D films and other attractions.
In 1965, BBC TV played an April Fools Day joke when they interviewed a man who had invented a new technology called “Smellovision” that allowed viewers at home to experience aromas generated in the TV studio. To demonstrate, the man chopped some onions and brewed a pot of coffee. British viewers called the station to confirm that they had smelled the aromas that were “transmitted” through their TV sets.